Despite moving, I have still managed to do a decent amount of breadmaking, and thanks to my new book – ‘River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread’ by Daniel Stevens I have made a variety of different loaves and discovered new techniques.
The book describes and explains the different processes involved in making bread my hand, the various ingredients that can be used, important techniques that can make a reasonable loaf of bread an amazing one, possible reasons why problems have occurred, the basic bread formula, then a selection of bread recipes, including yeast-free bread, buns, biscuits and battered breads, and suggestions for using up leftover bread. The book even directs you on how to build your own clay oven!
My breadmaking in August had a slow start, and I limited myself to yeast-free breads, before trying out the new techniques later in the month. I have not been following the book to the letter, mainly due to laziness. However, I have found that by trying out one technique at a time I have been noticing the differences that these make.
Week 1 – Roti
100g strong brown or wholemeal flour
A small pinch of salt
A large knob of melted butter
The book suggests sifting the wholemeal flour to remove the coarser bits as this helps the roti puff up better. Not that I got much puffing anyway! I mixed together the flour, salt and water, kneaded it for a couple of minutes then divided it into six balls before rolling each ball out. I think my main problem was that they were not thin enough. It was also possibly that my pan was not hot enough when I put them in. However, they cooked and bubbled up a little in places, and once brushed with the melted butter and served with a yummy curry, they still tasted great! I think they are one of those things that needs a bit of practice!
Banana and chocolate bread
Olive oil and flour to coat loaf tin
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
75g golden caster sugar
225g coconut milk
250g plain white flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g bar dark chocolate, chopped into 1cm pieces (I actually used Galaxy and loved the creaminess it gave the bread – when I make it again I think I will use Green & Black’s Creamy Milk)
(Optional ingredients: seeds from 4 cardamom pods, ½ tsp grated ginger and 50g chopped nuts. I did not use any of these on this occasion due to availability of ingredients and also Iaziness in grinding the cardamom seeds!)
This recipe is from Rachel de Thample’s ‘Less Meat, More Veg’. This is more of a cake than a bread, and in fact I made it as my husband’s Birthday cake. However, I had wanted to make it for absolutely ages and I am so glad I finally got round to it because it is seriously the most scrumptious banana bread I have ever tasted! Just mix everything together then bake at 180˚C for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Wholemeal Soda Bread
500g wholemeal flour
4tsp baking powder
300ml buttermilk, thin yoghurt, milk or water
1tbsp black treacle
Mix together, knead lightly, shape into a round and cut a cross in the top of each loaf. Bake at 200˚C for 20-25 minutes.
I love soda bread and I have always used buttermilk in the past, which is not always easy for me to get hold of and I have never dared use substitutes! However, reading this recipe made me keen to try it again and I loved the sound of a wholemeal loaf with the treacle in.
I used yoghurt in this recipe, although I added extra as I needed more liquid. However, I think I ended up adding a bit too much as the bread, once baked, was an almost gooey texture inside. Nevertheless, very tasty, and I love how with the deep cross you make in soda bread before it goes in the oven you can just tear it into big chunks. I think it would be really yummy with marmite (if you’re a marmite lover, that is).
10g powdered yeast
600ml warm water
(Makes 2 large or 3 small loaves – I halved it to make 1 large loaf in a tin)
My first yeast-bread attempt from the River Cottage book so I just stuck with the basic bread recipe and didn’t do anything fancy. I also just stuck to my previous method as I had not really read it in detail yet. I used half-and-half with the flour and it was a good, albeit boring, loaf. Looking back now, three loaves later, and I can certainly see the difference the various techniques make!
1kg flour (a mixture of bag-ends)
10g powdered yeast
600ml warm water
1tsbp fat (I used the remains of some olive oil)
2 handfuls of extras (I used a combinations of seeds, oats and the coarse stuff from the wholemeal flour I used in the roti)
2 handfuls of extras plus 200ml water for coating (I just used oats)
First loaf baked at my new house!
This bread is very much focussed on using up all the little bits and bobs left in the cupboard so it was right up my street! With this recipe I started putting my bowl of dough inside a binbag to rise (previously I had just covered the bowl with a tea towel) and found it actually made a difference – it needed far less time to rise. Additionally, I coated my bread for the first time which was fun to do – rolled it in a bowl of water and then rolled it in a bowl of oats. It was lovely with an oaty crust! It was also the first time I felt really happy with a loaf I had not used a loaf tin for as it kept its shape. I also slashed the top of the loaf although the slashes did not open out which, according to the troubleshooting guide, suggest the loaf was under-kneaded or the initial oven temperature was too low (amongst other possibilities).
Basic loaf recipe again to which I added a couple of handfuls of wheatgerm (I love that stuff – I will throw it in anything and you can’t even tell it is there) and coated simply with flour.
The book suggests deflating the dough (poking it all over with your fingers) after you have left it to rise so that the dough is back to its original size, then leaving it to rise again up to four times as this will improve the texture and flavour. You can in fact do this more than once, although you have to be careful not to do it too many times as the yeast will stop working. I went through this process twice, then shaped the dough and left it to prove before putting it in the oven and when it came out I thought it was the most amazing-looking bread I’d ever made! It was massive and balloon-like and rather funny looking. It reminded me a bit of the late stages of pregnancy!
The bread tasted fantastic but was a little holey in parts. According to the troubleshooting guide, the holeyness and uneven shape indicated that it was over-proved (I think I may have left it longer than the required 15 minutes).